As many as 4 billion people from across the globe face severe water scarcity. According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, the population growth is increasingly putting pressure on freshwater supply. Some past studies have suggested that between 25% and 40% of the global population face water scarcity. But the new study reveals that the situation is even worse.
Some African countries face year-round water shortage
Scientists led by Arjen Y. Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands used computer modeling to study the growing shortage of fresh water. Population growth, changing consumption patterns, improved living standards, and the expansion of irrigation in agriculture are collectively responsible for the shortage. The study focused on how the supply of fresh surface water and groundwater fluctuates over the course of a year.
Though 4 billion people facing water shortage seems pretty bad, that number includes people who experience water scarcity for at least a month every year. Severe scarcity is when demand is at least double the supply available in an area. Besides regions that face year-round scarcity like northern Mexico and Somalia, scientists identified areas where water is scarce during certain seasons.
Water scarcity is both man-made and natural phenomenon
About 900 million people in China and one billion people in India face severe water scarcity during the spring and summer. Other countries that face water shortages are the US (130 million people), Bangladesh (130 million people), Pakistan (120 million people), and Nigeria (110 million). Other regions such as Central Africa, South America, Malaysia-Indonesia are less susceptible to water scarcity.
The United Nations says water scarcity is both a human-made and natural phenomenon. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet for seven billion people, but the distribution is uneven. The UN says too much of fresh water is polluted, wasted or unsustainably managed. Arjen Y. Hoekstra suggested several measures to address the problem such as improving water-recycling, limiting population growth in stressed regions, increasing desalination of seawater, making irrigated agriculture more efficient, improving infrastructure to reduce domestic and industrial water waste, and increasing storage in reservoirs.